Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti says that his fellow Italian Mario Balotelli should not be shouldering all the blame for Liverpool's poor recent form.
The Reds' 1-0 loss to Newcastle on Saturday was their fourth in 10 Premier League games this season, while they have also been beaten twice in their first three Champions League outings. In contrast, last term Brendan Rodgers' side lost just six times in total as they came close to claiming the Premier League title.
Balotelli, a summer arrival from AC Milan, has been singled out by some as a primary cause for the change in fortunes, with the 16 million-pound signing having scored just once in 11 games in the Premier League and Champions League so far.
The former Milan player was targeted after Madrid's 3-0 Champions League win at Anfield in October when he was withdrawn by Rodgers at half-time after his side had been outclassed.
Ancelotti told his prematch news conference, ahead of Tuesday's return meeting at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, that Liverpool's main issue is not their striker's performances, but instead that they are still coming to terms with the loss of last season's top scorer Luis Suarez.
"There is a lot of talk about Balotelli, too much," Ancelotti said. "He is a quality player who has joined a team which at the moment is missing an important player like Suarez, who scored so many goals.
"They need to look for another solution, find another style with new players. I do not believe that all of Liverpool's problems in this moment are down to Balotelli, but he has to work to help the team come through this situation."
After the first meeting against Madrid, Rodgers publicly criticised Balotelli for swapping shirts with opponent Pepe as he left the pitch at half-time, drawing further attention to what was already a controversial gesture.
Ancelotti, who made light of the incident in his own postmatch news conference at Anfield, again saw the funny side of what had happened.
"Swapping shirts at half-time with an opponent is something very normal," he said. "If Marcelo tomorrow swaps shirts with a player, I will not take him off for that."